Since April is National Car Care Month, it’s a good idea to look at caring for your tires. Tires are one of the most important systems in a vehicle, responsible for putting power to the ground, holding the road during corners, and griping securely during hard stops. Charged with all these important tasks, it’s hard to believe many vehicle owners ignore their tire care. For yourself and your wallet’s health, here are some simple steps you can take to maximize the life of your tires.
Your tires will sometimes tell you when they need attention. All you have to do is pay attention. Check the sidewall for dry-rot or cracks. Check for wires poking through the rubber. Both of those symptoms mean it is time for new tires. Look in the tread for any nails or screws you may have run over, that may have punctured the tire, and temporarily remained in place. These foreign objects will usually cause a slow leak, and eventually a flat. Finally, check the tread depth. Take a penny and put Lincoln’s head into a tread groove. If you can see the top of his head, your tires are wearing thin.
Clean tires are happy tires, and you will be happy when they last longer. Just as dirt and grit can wear on your paint, it can also wear on your tires. Use general purpose car wash soap to wash your tires at the same time you wash your car. You can buy a specific tire brush, or use the car wash mitt. Several products advertise the ability to return that shiny new and wet look to your tires, or return the pop to your whitewalls. Cleaning your tires is also an opportunity to do the above visual inspection.
Air pressure is the critical component to your tires, and thus a critical component to your overall vehicle. Low tire air pressure causes excessive tire wear and costs you money with reduced gas mileage. Use a simple $1 tire pressure gauge available at gas stations. If your tire is low, head to a gas station that offers free air, and fill up until the gauge reads the proper pressure.
Tire rotation should be a regular part of your vehicle’s maintenance. Remember that most vehicles have more weight up front, due to the engine and more complex suspension and steering components up front. If left without rotation, this weight will cause the front tires will wear out faster than the rear. However, if you swap them with the rear tires, and left and right sides, they will all wear evenly. Check to see if you have directional tires. They have an arrow pointing the direction they should roll while driving. Don’t mess up by putting a directional tire on backwards, as they will wear out quickly and deliver poor performance.